Irvine City Council Members Criticize Homeless Shelter Plan Near The Great Park

The Irvine City Council June 6, 2017. JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

A majority of the Irvine City Council has expressed concern over Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s proposal to open a 200-person temporary homeless shelter on county land near the entrance to the Great Park.

Nelson’s proposal is “simply to offer a shelter, a cot and sanitary facilities in a safe location…” according his May 9 memo to county Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim. Nelson’s plan also includes sites on county land in Huntington Beach and Santa Ana to provide temporary shelters around the county.

“It’s curious the three sites that Supervisor Nelson identified for the homeless center, none of them are in his district,” Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner said during a brief city council discussion Tuesday of Nelson’s plan. Nelson’s 4th district in north Orange County includes Fullerton, Buena Park, La Habra, Placentia and parts of Anaheim.

The Irvine City Council officially received Nelson’s proposal Tuesday but took no official position.

Wagner said he’s talked with Nelson about the proposed shelter on 100 acres near the Great Park.

Nelson’s plan is to provide temporary shelter for a total of about 600 homeless people. Each site would house about 200 people under a basic shelter and provide cots, toilets and showers. Huntington Beach officials voiced opposition to the plan a few days after Nelson’s announcement.

 Four days before Nelson made his proposal, the county’s first year-round full service homeless shelter, called Bridges at Kraemer Place, opened May 5 in Anaheim.

The shelter currently has 100 beds and provides case management services, laundry, showers, shuttle services and job referrals. The county plans to add another 100 beds, along with a kitchen, health clinic and a computer lab this summer. To stay at the shelter, homeless people need to be referred by a county agency.

Last year, the county opened a homeless shelter at the abandoned Santa Ana bus terminal that has housed over 400 people on some nights. Unlike the referral-only Kraemer shelter, the bus terminal is for walk-ins.

Additionally, the county released its Point in Time count last month that tracks the number of homeless people in Orange County. It found a 54 percent increase in homelessness over the last 4 years.

From January 2013 to this January, the count of “unsheltered” homeless people grew from 1,678 to 2,584, including 286 in south Orange County. The new annual estimate of the number of people who are homeless at some point each year in Orange County – which was over 15,000 in 2015 – hasn’t been released yet.

Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott, who pulled Nelson’s plan from the consent calendar so council members could discuss it, asked for details and an update on the proposal from staff.

“This is something that we do have to keep an eye on,” Schott said.

“This appears to be a free-for-all facility with up to 200 beds,” Joel Belding, the city’s principal planner, said at the meeting. He also said the proposed site doesn’t meet state guidelines for homeless shelters.

Belding, who sent a May 12 memo to Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce that identified deficiencies in Nelson’s proposal, said the shelter could impact the Irvine Police Department because no Orange County Sheriff’s substation is nearby.

Councilwoman Christina L. Shea said she’s been getting calls from concerned residents since Nelson announced his proposal last month.

The county won’t move forward with Nelson’s plan until staff gets direction from a majority of the Board of Supervisors, county Spokeswoman Carrie Braun said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Joyce said he’s been talking with county CEO Frank Kim about Nelson’s Irvine proposal. While Joyce didn’t specify what they’ve been talking about, he said it’s on par with the city’s response and the questions raised about the proposal.

According to Belding’s memo, the proposed shelter doesn’t meet state homeless shelter regulations because it lacks things like a nearby public transit center, job centers and supporting services like mental health and drug treatment.

Moreover, Belding’s memo lists at least a dozen other provisions the city says the proposed shelter is lacking from security and storage facilities to supplies like soap and  toothpaste.

Since the 100 acres is county-owned land, it is exempt from the city’s zoning standards, discretionary approvals and building permits, according to the June 13 report to the city council.

Joyce isn’t the only one who’s been meeting with people from the county. Wagner said he’s been talking with Nelson since early May, when Nelson first announced his plan.

“At this point, it’s premature to say where those discussions will end up,” Wagner said, adding that he hopes to bring Supervisor Todd Spitzer into the discussion. Irvine is part of Spitzer’s supervisorial district.

But Braun said Kim or the county’s executive office hadn’t received any reports or lists of questions from Irvine as of Wednesday.

“At this point, the county staff has no future plans to bring the plan back to the board,” Braun said.

“Homelessness is a complex statewide crisis and the county is a regional leader… it’s going to require partnership with cities and nonprofits,” Braun said. “We’re going to have to work together to find solutions.”

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at

  • Ramit Deepa

    Putting homeless shelters near the Great Park is a low cost way to make housing affordable in Irvine.

    Sprinkle the shelters all around the park’s borders and watch those home prices come down.

  • Logic First

    Shawn Nelson lives at 2030 Conejo Lane in Fullterton. Interesting he’s not putting a homeless shelter near there…. I wonder why?

  • astar2b

    Not good Feng Shui…

    • LFOldTimer

      Kang would bring bad Feng Shui to the DA’s office.

      Judge Goethals for DA in 2018!

  • Madeleine Spencer

    “A majority of the Irvine City Council has expressed concern over Supervisor Shawn Nelson’s proposal to open a 200-person temporary homeless shelter on county land near the entrance to the Great Park.
    Nelson’s proposal is “simply to offer a shelter, a cot and sanitary facilities in a safe location…” according his May 9 memo to county Chief Executive Officer Frank Kim. Nelson’s plan also includes sites on county land in Huntington Beach and Santa Ana to provide temporary shelters around the county(VOC).

    Responding to this article: Let the Regional Battles Begin! This is when we find out the true fiber and gain an understanding of what our region is made of. This region will either unite to achieve real ends and show its character. And if it is strong and wise it will understand that you are only as good as how you treat those with the least. In the pressure of time it is coal which reveals diamonds within.

    It does not matter if it is Shawn Nelson’s District or not, Irvine and Huntington Beach are the two of our largest cities and Santa Ana and Anaheim have already stepped up. It is time for an area that boasts of its wealth and Master Planning to do its part. in facilitating and providing some modicum of effort to accomplish this regional strategy to end homelessness. If there is anywhere in the OC that ought to have a shelter it is in Irvine. Our success at a Federated Regional Strategy depends on it. ” #StepupIrvine.

    The Region of Orange County needs to stop playing this dangerous game of tug-of-war regarding our neighbors without homes. Doing more to help will give us as a region greater certainty of being able to overcome these issues together and build us up as a region to later thrive together economically.

    Implementing a Federated Regional Approach and providing basic care for those without homes is a campaign that ought to unite cities to change the long-term emergency, transitional and affordable housing system and knuckle down to end homelessness once and for all. We need efforts and energy that supports each of our cities as well as each city’s community and their efforts to achieve these ends. One of the key ways we can strengthen this system is to equitably distribute these “zones of assistance’” for the poorest of our poor across the region beginning with the Cities that have the most like Irvine, Huntington Beach and beyond. There is a difference between a wish and a goal and the OC has created a goal to end homelessness and it will take every city across the regions dedication to achieve it.

    With a sustained Housing Crisis and the projected future demand for an additional workforce housing over the next decade, our neighbors without homes represent the ground war we face and can be seen as one of the largest untended to faces of poverty within our region, this is not the third world this is Orange County.

    For years there has been a lopsided distribution of care in relation to this issue and most of this problem has been shouldered by the regional seat in the beautiful yet struggling City of Santa Ana for the past 20 years. Even while the city of Santa Ana, which houses the center of the OC government is a city that has myriad struggles to face related to the issues of poverty and lack of affordable housing, this does not mean it should not be assisted with these needed reforms. The reformation and redistribution of care facilities will create greater equity regionally which can have the positive effect of reducing poverty, increasing efficiency and sustaining our capacity to achieve long term solutions as we continue this work together rather than apart to face and end the problems of poverty in our midst . #Workforce housing, #Unitetoendhomelessness. #RegionalStrategyToEndHomelessness, #SolutionsnotProblems, #DotheRightThing.

  • I have seen homelessness solutions in several states, in Flagstaff, AZ the police gather the homeless pack them in a bus to Phoenix warning them not to return, typical red state answer, then I have read that in Utah they have actually provided the homeless with Homes, (not shelters) Jobs, Counseling, case management over a realistic period of time. California, until recently, outlawed homelessness.

  • Michael Tiffany

    50% of homelessness is because of corporations, so if you want to stop half of the problem make businesses pay a living wage.

  • Farrah N. Khan

    As an Irvine resident and someone who has for the past 4 years consistently served food to those on Ross St in Santa Ana with a group of interfaith folks every 4th Sunday of the month – I’m tired of hearing about “temporary housing”. I don’t want money to be spent on temporary housing by displacing the homeless as if they are mere objects. They are human beings who deserve respect, the required services and a path towards permanent housing. The Board of Supervisors need to stop coming up with pet projects that don’t take care of the issue. They need to adopt the 10 year plan to end homelessness and put the money they have into the plan – period! Sen Kevin deLeon passed a bill providing $2 Billion to end homelessness in CA. Let’s do the work to get people off the streets permanently, it can be done.

    • LFOldTimer


      Instead of a temporary 200-bed temporary homeless shelter in Irvine how about a 200-bed PERMANENT homeless shelter in Irvine?

      If you don’t want the homeless to be used as “mere objects” then push for them to become permanent residents of Irvine w/ a permanent shelter. Fair enough?

      If it’s good enough for Anaheim, it’s good enough for Irvine!

      • Farrah N. Khan

        I have! I introduced Council to the Illumination Foundation, an organization who’s based in Irvine. They didn’t take much interest.

        • LFOldTimer

          I have no idea what Illumination Foundation is.

          My question for you is have you specifically asked your council to clear the way for a permanent 200-bed homeless shelter to be built in Irvine like the one on Kraemer Pl. in Anaheim?

          If so, could you direct me to the city council meeting (date) where you made that proposal so I could watch the video replay?


          • Madeleine Spencer

   Illumination Foundation has for years helped to get families with children into motels with vouchers here. While based in Irvine much of their work is done here in the City of Santa Ana. Alyson Crosby is an amazing woman who originally worked at the Catholic Worker in Santa Ana. Their work as a provider in this county is pivotal.

          • LFOldTimer

            Thanks for the background on Illumination Foundation, Madeleine.

            Has anybody in the organization thought about teaching these needy people not to have children until they can afford to raise them properly?

            That might be a good place to start treating the problem instead of just feeding the disease.

            Do they teach them to use birth control or is that in violation of the Catholic doctrine?

          • @Dan Chmielewski

            Now that there won’t be a veterans cemetery at the 125 acre ARDA site, perhaps we can convince FivePoint to place a permanent homeless shelter there.

          • Oh that would be fantastic! I would love to see the look on the peoples faces that complained about Veterans being buried near their mansions, they should love living homeless persons!

    • Madeleine Spencer

      We have adopted a 10 year plan. This regional strategy is a key part of achieving this plan and thus far there are not many regional partners that have stepped up to take on the challenge. Concentrated poverty in specific areas of the region does not achieve this goal and it is important as a resident of Irvine that you understand that it is your city and its wealth that can assist in achieving this goal. When you begin to take care of the poor in your own community and each city does the same the concentration of poverty will no longer be in Civic Center where you can feel safe to come over and share your charity outside of your own city. This will break up the concentration and make the end goal achievable. Where do you think the poor from your city come to? They live all along the planned paths and trails and end up here in the city of Santa Ana. Emergency shelter systems are the missing link to connecting people to services. It is shown to be helping here and it will again be shown to help in your city.

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  • LFOldTimer

    Yeah, the Irvine Council says just dump all the homeless on Anaheim and Santa Ana – their city is too high-brow to contribute to solutions to growing social problems.

    Nelson came up with a great idea. The homeless problem is EVERYONE’S problem and all cities should contribute to the solution – to include Irvine and Huntington Beach.

    Maybe if the high brow cities in South County got involved we could find REAL SOLUTIONS to the homeless problem instead of just offering more superficial claptrap and throwing endless amounts of taxpayer money at the problem that solves nothing. It’s like putting a band-aid on a severed artery.

    No wonder that Wagner and Shea are against it – just like they spat on our veterans by siding with the BIG MONEY and putting the vet’s cemetery out in the strawberry fields – out of sight, out of mind.

    Oh, and where does the liberal Mellssa Fox stand on this issue? Her name wasn’t mentioned. She was the traitor swing vote that supported the BIG MONEY and sent the vets out into the strawberry fields. Is she in lockstep with Wagner and Shea on this one like she was on the vet’s cemetery? I guess I’ll have to watch the video to find out.

    Oh, and Wagner is wrong. Nelson DID, in fact, support the proposed large Fullerton homeless shelter that would have serviced many hundreds of homeless people. But it got shot down by no fault of his own. Nelson was the one who actually organized the real estate deal to purchase a large warehouse in Fullerton to support the deal. So Wagner should do his research before he shoots his mouth off.

    The homeless problem is ALL of our problems. It’s unfair and indecent to push the problem off on the central OC cities. REAL SOLUTIONS need to found and implemented. And we need temporary shelters until permanent solutions are found.

    No more NIMBY’s!!!!

  • verifiedsane

    Irvine to the rest of OC….”not in my neighborhood”